POSTSCRIPT / July 19, 2001 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Want hospital arrest? Just cry cholesterol!

THE phalanx of lawyers of The Estradas of Polk Street should get an award for its ingenious contributions to the enrichment of Philippine jurisprudence.

Because of them, we are now ready to give the expert advice to people who are criminally inclined to include mouth-watering lechon, chicharon bulaklak and other high-cholesterol fare in their diet. Fat is suddenly beautiful, at least in this jurisdiction.

* * *

WHEN a felon gets caught and wants to stay out of jail, all he has to do is clutch his breast, gasp, roll his eyes and claim having chest pains. If an examination by a cooperative doctor turns up traces of cholesterol in the blood, that’s even better.

The defense lawyer rises to say: Your Honor, my patient, este client, is ripe for a heart attack, according to our medical findings. We move that he be sent home under house arrest.

It would help, of course, if somebody lugging a thick envelope had talked to the judge the night before.

* * *

BUT just in case the judge wants to play coy because some pesky press people are covering the trial despite a ban on TV coverage, the lawyer slides down a bit and says: Your Honor, our patient client won’t mind being allowed hospital arrest.

And we happen to have a life-saving suite ready at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, the lawyer adds, glancing with a knowing smile at his impressed client still clutching his chest.

Siyempre the prosecution lawyer will jump up to object: But the impatient…este the accused, Your Honor, is neither a veteran nor one fit for a memorial…

* * *

SERIOUSLY now, if detention were to be decided by the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream of the respondent, then around half of people facing charges could end up in a hospital, triggering an admission crisis unparalleled in our medical history.

This would spawn a lucrative new racket involving doctors selling medical certifications (as usual, without official receipts) packaged with comfy hospital suites and attentive nurses.

It would also trigger a boom in the lechon business in La Loma, followed by the mushrooming of copycat lechon and liempo outlets in other parts of town some distance from (yuck!) the North Cemetery.

* * *

WE concede that this may be exaggerating it a bit. We realize that the problem with many of us is not really cholesterol in our blood, but the lack of food in our stomach and money in our pockets.

Here arises again the Great Divide between the rich and the poor, ironically a favorite propaganda theme of the Estradas.

While the affluent can always claim heavy cholesterol deposits and flaunt medical certificates from name specialists, the poor can only emit noxious gas from their shriveled stomachs and wave unfilled prescriptions for their many ailments arising from malnutrition.

* * *

NOW, where are we…? Oh, we’re talking about where to dump the Estradas while awaiting trial and judgment.

Truth to tell, we’ve grown tired of the subject — which is probably the big idea behind this pre-trial rigmarole. Those naughty lawyers, we swear, must be trying to tire us into slumber.

Really, if the judges are not in cahoots with the lawyers, why are they allowing these supposed officers of the law to throw those ridiculous obstacles to a speedy trial? Many of their dilatory motions are patently obstructionist, yet the judges allow them.

In times like these, we’re tempted to call on the Alex Boncayao Brigade to cut short the moro-moro.

* * *

WE sympathize with lawyer Leonard de Vera, who now finds himself the object of a vicious demolition job for being a leading member of a group of lawyers pursuing charges against former President Erap Estrada.

That’s what he gets, it seems, for stubbornly chasing the truth on the plunder attributed to Erap. But if his tormentors think their tirades would scare him, they are mistaken.

I can say this, because I happen to know Nards rather well. We both resided in the US West Coast at the height of Marcosian martial rule and had on many occasions dealt with each other professionally and personally.

* * *

NARDS has his own share of faults and shortcomings like the rest of us frail humans, but these never hold him back when he decides to make a principled stand on a crucial issue.

I’m positive that Nards is not an American citizen as his detractors claim. Although he resided in the US for many years, he never gave up his citizenship. To this day, he is a Filipino.

Returning to the home country after the fall of Marcos, Nards resigned from the State Bar of California. It is not true that he was disbarred or that his membership in the State Bar was suspended.

He is not a fugitive from the law as some parties would want to picture him. He is not facing any charge in any court, in the US, the Philippines or elsewhere. He can freely enter and depart from the US.

* * *

ASSUMING for the sake of argument that Nards, like many expatriates, has had some personal problems during those difficult days in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are irrelevant to his and his team’s campaign to pin down Erap on plunder charges.

The issue is Erap, not the lawyers handling or helping in the prosecution. Removing De Vera or some other lawyers from the prosecution team will not alter the facts of the case.

The evidence and the pertinent law will speak for themselves. Their probative value will neither be enhanced nor diminished by their having passed the professional hand of a De Vera.

* * *

THESE details of a lawyer’s record are irrelevant to Erap’s case, but they are material to appreciating what kind of man this De Vera is. We turn you over to him:

“My law practice, both in the US and in the Philippines, as could be attested by many testimonials, will show that I have assisted the weak and the poor in their fight for justice. I have rendered many pro bono (for free) cases at the risk of my own life.

“To mention a few, I have prosecuted and obtained death sentences against four members of a criminal syndicate who murdered the former vice provincial commander of Occidental Mindoro (People of the Philippines vs. Wilson Lopez, et al., RTC Branch 46, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro).

“I prosecuted and obtained three life sentences against the murderers of businessman Marcel Rosete (People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Cambarejan, et al., RTC Branch 138, Makati).

“I am prosecuting and have successfully caused the arrest without bail of three police officers headed by a police major and two civilians who raped a 15-year old child, forced her to become a drug addict and sold her to prostitution (People of the Philippines vs. Clemente Lanto, et al., RTC Branch 46, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro), and various cases we have filed on behalf of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on national issues involving the rights of our people.

“I have written numerous articles in law journals and newspapers and spoken against the injustices committed against our people.”

* * *

A READER who simply signed “Sonny” said in his email sent via his cellphone: “You said Erap’s not President now. True. But he was Pres. when he committed ‘crimes.’ That’s what’s relevant.”

We tried tracing him, but his return address proved unreachable at the moment, so we print here and share our response:

“Just one question will settle the point: Can we impeach Erap now? The answer is No. And the reason is that he is not the president.

“That is what is relevant when we talk of impeachable officials. Erap is not an impeachable official. Not anymore.

“Since he is not facing impeachment before the Sandiganbayan, he is eligible for presidential pardon in the event he is convicted as a common criminal. The constitutional prohibition against pardon applies only to officials (such as a president) who are convicted in an impeachment trial.

“Note that the Sandigan trial is not an impeachment trial. An impeachment trial is conducted by the Senate, not by the Sandiganbayan.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 19, 2001)

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